'Shades of Blue': Jennifer Lopez and Ray Liotta Talk Sex, Corruption and Even More Murder
Oh, snap! Yep, that’s exactly what New York City cop Harlee Santos did to her baby daddy’s neck in last spring’s shocking season finale of Shades of Blue. He was a brute, an abuser, a total psycho—and he definitely had it coming. But no way can she ever confess to killing him.
When the hit NBC thriller returns on Sunday, March 5, only a few moments have passed since the slaying, but Harlee (played by superstar Jennifer Lopez) is already in survival mode. Where will she stash the corpse? How will she keep her daughter from finding out? Things will take an even darker turn when Harlee buries the body in the dead of night—but not before jumping down into the grave, straddling the cadaver and smashing out the teeth with a hammer and chisel to prevent identification. Clearly, Harlee has balls to spare. Lopez? Not so much.
“I felt sick when I first read that burial scene,” Lopez admits. “All I could think was, ‘I can’t do this! How can I possibly go there?’ But that’s the difference between Harlee and me. My life is crazy. Her life’s insane. And she will do what it takes to make it through another day.”
Viewers knew Harlee was a dirty cop from the first scene of the first episode, when rookie detective Michael Loman (Dayo Okeniyi) accidentally killed an unarmed perp during a drug raid and she taught him how to cover up the crime. Harlee is also not above planting evidence or pocketing payola. But here’s the dicey conceit of the series: She’s no villain. Harlee is actually a warm, caring woman who does all this to give her kid, Cristina (Sarah Jeffery), a better life. And she has the full backup of her even more crooked boss and mentor, Lt. Matt Wozniak (Ray Liotta), who loves Cristina as if she’s his own child.
“Harlee and Woz are still keeping the streets safe, and they never mess with good and innocent people,” executive producer Jack Orman notes. “In fact, there are times when they wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they weren’t corrupt. But put them in a different TV show and they could easily be the bad guys.”
Gino Anthony Pesi, who plays ADA James Nava, is now a series regular.
And that has Harlee feeling great guilt and shame. “She’s making bad choices for what she tries to convince herself are good reasons, and it’s left her an emotional disaster,” says Lopez. “In her heart, she knows it’s all wrong. She’s always like, ‘Woz, when does this stop? How many bodies are too many bodies?’ Woz is too far gone. But Harlee still has some sort of a moral compass, and she knows this will all come back to bite her.”
Probably sooner rather than later. Last season, Harlee was arrested in an anticorruption sting and, in order to gain immunity, she ratted out Woz to FBI agent Robert Stahl (Warren Kole). But Stahl’s not so clean himself. He’s so sexually obsessed with Detective Santos that he hires hookers who resemble her and insists, during S&M play, that they call themselves Harlee. And now the cops have all that on video. Season 2 will explode in tit-for-tat reveals, with Woz circulating one of Stahl’s sex tapes and Stahl retaliating by exposing Woz’s secret bisexual life to his unsuspecting wife, Linda (Margaret Colin).
“Woz doesn’t see that coming, and it’s devastating,” says the Emmy-winning Liotta. “But that doesn’t mean it’s over between him and Linda. They need time. Not everyone is willing to throw away 25 years of marriage.” A family crisis involving their son, Nate (Cameron Scoggins), will help the couple get beyond Woz’s infidelity—for now, anyway. “Woz and Nate have been estranged for years and now the kid’s in bad trouble,” say Liotta. “Linda wants Woz to use all the tricks of the trade to help Nate out, no matter how illegal.”
Last season Woz had a fling with Internal Affairs agent Donnie Pomp (Michael Esper) and was also prone to anonymous gay encounters in back alleys. “The guy is trisexual—meaning he’ll try anything!” jokes Liotta. “But, after getting busted, I don’t think he’ll be doing it with guys for a while.” However, another past indiscretion will come to light with the introduction of Julia Ayres (Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn), who spent 12 years working in Woz and Harlee’s precinct, first as a detective, then as captain. “Julia and Woz used to fool around quite a bit,” Liotta says. “It was very intense and a lot more than missionary.” Now Julia is a city councilwoman looking to become mayor of New York City. She’s also in thick with a notorious mobster.
'It was the ultimate, ultimate acting for me,' the actor says of his character's big secret.
“Julia is like Bobby Fischer—a master chess player who knows all the power moves,” Gunn says. “She’s relentlessly driven and can play whatever role best suits her needs in any situation. But now she’s broken away from the pack. It’s a hard thing for Harlee and Woz to see Julia put on that political face and work a room when she used to be one of them.” Orman adds, “Woz was also a mentor to Julia, so she’s like the ghost of Harlee’s future: a cautionary tale of what happens when you’re heading down that slippery slope of corruption.”
But Harlee may be getting a savior, in the form of valiant ADA James Nava (Gino Anthony Pesi). The two shared some sexy sack time last year. Now things are looking serious. “Nava is Harlee’s way out of the chaos,” says Lopez. “When he holds her at night, she can make believe, for just a second, that she’s someone else.” Now that production on Season 2 has wrapped, Lopez is looking forward to being someone else too—namely, herself.
“When I’m playing Harlee, I just can’t shake her,” Lopez says. “I feel like I’m carrying all her secrets, all her anxieties. I go home, look at myself in the mirror and see her staring back, looking exhausted.” By comparison, the rest of Lopez’s life at the moment—producing other TV shows (The Fosters, the upcoming World of Dance), performing her concert act in Vegas and being a single mother of two—seems like a vacation. “I never thought Shades of Blue would be a piece of cake,” Lopez says with a laugh. “But, man, this show is rough on my soul!”
Shades of Blue, Season Premiere, Sunday, March 5, 10/9c, NBC